Little Mouse

Little mouse

A hundred years
of evolution have
made you the
colour of the
platform.

Does it help you see
the point of the Tube?

Sometimes, you see,
I have doubts.

******

I found this poem stuck into the pages of a book I left at the pub’s new lending library. Good thing I checked, it’s not bad, and I obviously forgot all about it shortly after writing it.

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Viola, we’re not in Talia anymore

Another one to file in the ‘some people know this and some people don’t’ category: I parted ways with Talia, the company that I worked with for more than a decade, at the end of last year. I’m proud of the work we did together, growing from three guys in a room to one of the largest independent satellite network operators. I left on what I hope are good terms, and I am sure they will continue to thrive.

Of course, I want to thrive, as well. I’ve done some consulting work since branching out on my own — technical, business development, and brewing — and after looking around, found something I think I can dig my teeth into: a DevOps and Cloud startup that I call Cloud Familiar. And I want you to know about it.

Leaving Talia was a risk, but there were reasons. Over the years I had moved away from being directly involved with technology, and I missed it. I’d also gotten tired of barely escaping war and coups — it makes good stories, but I’m not as young as I used to be. And the satellite market is getting more difficult by the day, with a severe imbalance of supply and demand making the satellite operators hungry for direct sales (again). Talia is addressing the market weakness by adding system integration work, which I think is a good decision. It’s just not what I want to do with my time.

Also, I looked around at a lot of the people slightly older than me. There aren’t that many jobs out there in satellite for the ex-VPs. And probably there will be fewer as time goes on.

I had the luxury of being able to think about what I want to do without immediate pressure. Going back to University, I’ve always been a systems man, and a free open source evangelist. On the side of Talia, I’d kept up with developments in the systems world, and can talk DevOps, automation, the Cloud, Containers, Openstack, and all the new hotnesses. Consulting gigs on those topics are plentiful, and the pay isn’t bad.

But there should be something more exciting than that, right? Well, I thought, let’s do a startup that will leverage all the new hotness and bring something cool to market. We can do the consulting, and then build on it to do something interesting: a Cloud-first DevOps consultancy and automatic Cloud brokerage service.

For those who don’t know, the Cloud is all about hosting services on equipment that’s delivered in an on-demand basis. Basically, it’s renting capacity, and many of the big companies today are using it rather than having any owned infrastructure. Cloud Familiar helps companies get ready for a move to the cloud in a way that doesn’t lock them into any one provider. And then we help them to automatically shift between providers if a better deal comes along, or there’s an outage or other technical problem.

On the side of all this, consulting, satellite, FOSS, Linux, and the developing world are still all definitely on my plate. If the right opportunity, either contract or permanent, presents itself I’m not going to turn it down out of spite.

So, now for a request. You made it this far. If you have Linkedin, and we’ve worked together in the past, a few words of personal recommendation would be very welcome. I will happily reciprocate. And if you need help figuring out the Cloud, need some bizdev work done, or want to talk about satellite, brewing, Linux, or anything else, get in touch. I’d be happy to hear from you!

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Pi-Top First Impressions

So, my Pi-Top arrived last week. Today I took everything out and put it together. Here are some initial observations:

Slick packaging, well thought-out, and very professional. It looks like a real product the minute you open the box.

This is a cool educational device that will help kids tinker, but it is definitely a work in progress. But this is not the Arm-based laptop I’ve wanted for years. When I get some time I’ll fire up my Samsung Arm Chromebook and see what modern Ubuntu looks like on it.

Each ‘education’ drive seems to want to roll their own UI. Sugar was pretty radical, but Pi OS just seems like a launcher on top of Raspbian, and is buggy out of the box. I haven’t used a Kano, so I can’t comment there. I do wonder if there’s any real benefit in not sticking to a standard interface — they’re not creating value here, and including LIbreOffice would also probably be a good idea.

The keyboard and trackpad really suck. I mean, really suck. There is no way to touch-type, keypresses often get lost, and the touchpad to the side thing isn’t working for me. I was going to write a review of the Pi-Top on it, but I’m already so frustrated with the keyboard that I don’t think that’s possible. It is the main method of input, so it would be nice if it worked well. Perhaps it will get better the more it’s used. For the record, the OLPC keyboard also sucked.

I’ll kick the tyres on it for a few days, then write up a more detailed review.

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Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

Today is my fourth wedding anniversary. Sort of, anyway. It’s a bittersweet day, because it should be the day we celebrate being together, only we aren’t together, and haven’t been for a while.

Some people already know that I’m separated from Andrea. Most people don’t. I don’t really live my life online, and this is a very complicated, personal, and emotional issue. Please, I don’t need Facebook messages of solidarity, or retweets; a kind word in private, here or there, is always welcome (as is a number of bottles of decent Paso Zin).

It’s not important to talk about the whys, wherefores, and lay blame for our breakup. We both want different things from life, and those desires aren’t compatible. Neither of us is worse, or better, than the other. I’ve tried very hard to keep some sort of relationship intact, because no matter what, the time we spent together was important; being over doesn’t mean it’s disappeared from memory.

Although I manage to talk about these things in a matter-of-fact way, the internal dialogue is a lot more complicated. I’ve some deep-seated, and frankly irrational, guilt, probably as the child of a divorced couple, that I should have somehow not allowed this to happen. As it is, I tried hard to make things ‘better’, to the point where I didn’t recognise myself anymore. Dealing with the situation in a productive way is difficult, but I’m doing better than I was, and I can only imagine it will get easier as time goes on.

Part of what has guided me through all this is that, well, I’m not exactly in a unique position, am I? And, even after a (tough) break up, I’m still more fortunate than a lot of people. I’m not sure I would be so flippant as to say I’m better off for the experience, but sometimes it’s hard to see any positives when you’re sad. If I take an honest look at my life I have to admit that it could be much worse.

So, for those of you who were there with us on 5 November, 2011, thank you. I hope you enjoyed yourselves, and I know that I did. And I hope that we will all have fun, loving, and happy lives going forward, in whatever form they take.

Peace and love to all.

Travis

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The Continuing Adventures of a Newly-Minted Literary Snob (AKA Writing is Hard)

I was out for a concert yesterday with a friend. He’s working up to self-publishing a book, and I’m excited for him. But I think that didn’t come through in the conversation, because I’m (apparently) a literary snob. You could see how that might mask my excitement.

Trying to be a fairly open-minded fellow, I asked why he thought that. His points: basically that I am critical of a lot of self-published work (absolutely true), and that I do admire some ‘classic’ authors — Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Murakami — a bit too much for his liking. The take-away, as the kids call it, was that if I want to read his book, I’m going to have to buy it once it’s published. Which I would have done — and will do — anyway.

I could argue that I have plenty of pop fiction on my shelves: Practical Demonkeeping, Vish Puri, The Laundry series, A Song of Fire and Ice, the Elric saga (all of them), the Black Company… I could go on, but the contents of my reading lists aren’t really in question, I suppose, as much as my attitude to writing is. It was only after a couple of days that I figured that out.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this, and talk about me — but hopefully in an honest way. I am (and have been since a teen) a self-professed writer, who writes so infrequently it’s a joke. I’ve distracted myself with lots of travel (excuse: great source material), work (excuse: gotta bring in the money), and computing (excuse: solve that puzzle).

Truth be told, writing fiction is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s more personal than donating an organ, more intimate than sex, and ultimately expository. Putting words that mean something to you on a page opens your heart to whatever stranger happens to read it. And then, if they don’t like it, you’re — by your own admission — not any good.

To paraphrase the discussion, at one point I said something like: ‘You might as well work in an office, as write transcriptions of roleplaying games.’ And I believe that, but instead of starting with ‘You’ it should have start with ‘I’ because, for me at least, writing should be terrible, hard, and pull from my soul.

I’ve written werewolf screenplays, Cthulhiana , Elric fan-fic, and many more less ‘literary’ things. If I could complete, and sell them, I would do so in a heartbeat. But somehow they’re not enough for me. Yes, there are nuggets of truth found in most written work, but to put myself through the wringer every day, I think my intentions should be to shoot for the stars, not just turn over a paycheque. There are a lot of easier ways to make a living.

So am I a snob? Honestly, I don’t know, because ‘snob’ is a loaded word: ‘A person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.’ People will read whatever they like: Dan Brown, Harry Potter, Hemingway, Jim Butcher, and I don’t really care (some of those are on my bookshelves, and some aren’t). A lot of it is just not for me, just as Jane Austin, Bram Stoker, and Moby Dick aren’t. Of course, I’d probably struggle, if not fail, at writing any of the above.

So to my friend, all I can say is that I respect the amount of work you put in. I’ll try and do the same, and hopefully we both come out of it all with something we’re proud of.

Oh, and, I’m definitely reading your book once it’s published!

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